Updating previous reports, a consortium of internet advertising trade groups recently launched a self-regulatory program which adopts a universal icon to inform consumers when advertisements are targeted as a result of data tracking:

As part of the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising (the "Program"), the trade groups launched a Web site to provide information to marketers who engage in behavioral advertising and to consumers. The Program incorporates the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (the "Principles") released in July 2009. 

The Program includes the adoption of a new version of the "Power I" icon we wrote about back in February.  By clicking on the icon, a consumer will be directed to a page explaining why they are seeing a particular advertisement and how to opt out of being tracked online.  Marketers interested in adopting the "Advertising Option Icon" who are not otherwise Program participants can register to use the icon online. 

The Program will affect the approximately 5,000 companies represented by the trade groups, which include the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. 

The Program is being launched in the midst of a growing public debate over online privacy.  Competing privacy bills have been introduced by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D- Ill.) (H.R. 5777) and floated by U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D. Va.).  Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to release a summary of its Exploring Privacy roundtables soon as part of a larger report which may include recommendations for new policies relating to behavioral targeting.  Finally, a number of lawsuits have been filed recently in connection with the alleged use of flash and mobile cookies by online marketing companies.